9 January 2015
The Italian Navy on Thursday saved hundreds of boat migrants in the Mediterranean, as new UN figures show relatively few arrivals apply for asylum in Italy.
Italy’s Libra ship picked up 163 migrants from the merchant vessel Bourbon Argos, whose crew had rescued them from two boats north of the Libyan coast.
A further 210 migrants were transferred to the Libra after being saved by the Navy’s Maestrale ship south of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island.
The Libra was patrolling Mediterranean waters as part of the EU’s Triton mission, which replaced Italy’s own “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) migrant rescue operation in November.
Two tug boats and an additional merchant vessel, the Octopus, collectively saved 410 more migrants north of Libya on Thursday.
Increased violence in Libya, coupled with conflict and instability elsewhere, has led to an unprecedented number of people taking the treacherous boat journey to Europe.
Over 3,200 people are thought to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014, making it the most dangerous sea route for migrants according to Amnesty International.